McCrea plea for jobs to replace RAF
The movement of hundreds of military personnel and their families from RAF Aldergrove could spell "the end of an era" for Antrim, the local MP has said.
William McCrea was speaking in response to an announcement this week that most of the 700-strong unit at the airbase will move to England within the next two years as part of a major overhaul of Northern Ireland's garrisons.
The plans will also see Massereene Barracks in Antrim close after serving as a base for 38 Engineer Regiment, which will move to Aldergrove.
Said Mr McCrea. "However, the economy and family livelihoods will feel the real pain if this decision goes ahead and appropriate measures are not put in place.
"Those living and working in the RAF base have made a great contribution to the economy over the last number of decades. It would be wholly irresponsible for the Government to withdraw from this area without putting in place measures to deal with the economical consequences of the decision."
Some 500 members of service personnel families are expected to move from the area, which could have a knock-on effect on schools' numbers at local schools.
"We would have a large percentage of service personnel children," said Ruth Clarke, Principal of Straidhavern Primary School in Crumlin.
"Our information is that although the RAF are moving out, Army personnel are moving in. At the moment we don't know what the impact will be, we'll just have to wait and see.
"If a large number moved out it would have an impact (on our school), but I'm hoping that is not going to be the case, and from the information I have it does seem that that won't be the case."
Alderman Mervyn Rea, who is chairman of the board of Crumlin Integrated College, said he was hopeful of keeping numbers steady at the school, in spite of possible losses: "At least a third of our pupils would be from service families," he said.